WESLEY CHAPEL — As officials from Pasco Hernando State College officially dedicated the new Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch, Math Professor Sarah Fede invited the hundreds of guests at the ceremony to stick around for a while and marvel at the “exquisitely beautiful” campus.
“I hope you guys actually got a chance to see the views,” she said. “It is absolutely beautiful - the sunsets we get from our offices, from the classrooms. We had to actually take time in one of my classes to just have sunset appreciation.”
The seven-story college built on its own parking deck is an urban campus in a pastoral setting. Everyone in the room knew the one-time cattle ranch was in the midst of a transformation, and the cattle grazing on pastures across State Road 56 would eventually be replaced by thousands of office workers, homeowners and athletes.
The college officially opened in January. The fact that 1,800 students enrolled mid-year was evidence of the pent-up demand in Wesley Chapel, PHSC President Katherine Johnson said. She personally thanked the Porter family, owners of the ranch, for donating the 60-acre parcel to the college. “This is a stunningly architecturally unique campus located in the heart of this growing, vibrant community,” Johnson said. “We could not celebrate this occasion on this fine spring evening if not for the generosity of the Porter family.”
She called it “the ultimate altruistic act” and said the school would feature a permanent exhibit, and mural, honoring the family.
The 116,000-square-foot facility features 10 classrooms, four computer labs, four science labs, eight health labs, a library, a college store and a conference center, among other amenities.
Architect Joe Sorci said the administration and trustees asked his firm, Orlando-based Florida Architects, to design a building for the future of Wiregrass Ranch. “Thank you for having the courage and vision to go after something that is innovative that will set a model for the state and possibly the country, and just taking that leap of faith for something they only saw on paper,” he said.
Johnson also recognized officials from nearby Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel, which donated $350,000 to an endowment fund for a Porter Family Scholarship for health studies. The college will award $1,000 scholarships to 50 students over the next three years, she said.
Fede, who graduated from the community college before going to earn a master’s degree, said the new campus will allow today’s Wesley Chapel students to realize their potential. “The affordable tuition we had here, along with scholarships and grants, allowed me to graduate debt-free. So I tell my students it is very possible,” she said. “Dreams really do come true at PHSC.”